After a year of backpacking around Asia I know for a fact that bus rides can be a nightmare and after once enduring a bone jarring and hair raising bus ride from Vietnam to Cambodia, I thought I’ve experienced it all.So when I decided to travel around Indonesia during Ramadan, I didn’t really worry too much. I was warned though by a local surfer that I befriended and again by the Hotel staff where we stayed at in Bali that it’s not a good idea because Ramadan is a big holiday in Indonesia and travelling around this time can get stressful specially if you don`t have a solid bus seat booking online. FYI in Indonesia(Cambodia, Vietnam and most south east Asian countries), bus seats can be booked ahead of time online and is highly recommended if you want to spare yourself the headache.Another thing to keep in mind is that bus rides can get pretty expensive around the holidays, they sometimes double their price during these times.
I of course, taught knew better, decided to head to the bus station thinking that I might get a better price there. When we arrive at the local bus station though, it was pure chaos! The minute we stepped off the taxi, the bus conductors started hovering around us offering us the supposedly “last seats” going to Jogjakarta. It was a bit scary because some were a little aggressive that they were trying to grab our backpacks and carry it for us. We went straight to the ticket booths and even there was chaos, every booth has a different rate going to Jogjakarta. We had to look through several pamphlets to decide which bus is the cheapest and which looked decent enough from picture. After a so much guessing and confusion, I of course decided to take the one with the cheapest rate. The bus looked big and comfy from the pictures. I just told myself that this will all be over as soon as we settled in the bus. We waited for an hour for the bus to arrive, they were mostly guys who were waiting at the station with us and they were looking at us weird. On top of that there were posters of wanted terrorist all over the bus station that definitely put us on edge. A few luxury buses came in and I was hoping one of them would be ours. Finally the conductor came and led us to where our bus is. To my horror the “bus” that we were going to ride in was a small rickety shuttle bus that looks like one of it’s tires is gonna pop out soon. I didn’t have time to complain because the conductor shoved us inside in a hurry. I looked around and almost all the passenger were male and they were sternly looking at us.There were three other female passengers but they were all accompanied by their husbands or brothers I guess. I kept thinking about the wanted terrorist posters around the bus station, I started to think that one of the passengers might be a terrorist and just bomb the whole bus down or maybe hold me and my sister hostage because we were the only ones who were not local. I started to panic with the taught. I tried to calm myself down, thinking I was being silly and paranoid. A few hours into the ride I smelled smoke. When I looked around I saw a few guys at the back and the driver smoking inside the slightly air conditioned bus despite having the sign of NO SMOKING plastered in front! Nobody seemed to mind though. I pulled my bonnet down to my nose and tried to get some sleep. I managed to sleep despite the smokey ride until I felt something poking my elbow. I turned around and saw the guy behind me comfortably resting his foot in my arm rest. The thing that was poking me was his toe with seriously the darkest, deadest nail I’ve ever seen. I tapped his foot with my empty water bottle and pushed his foot down. He didn’t seem to mind. For the entire 12 hour overnight bus ride. We had to endure the smokey ride, my paranoia of a terrorist attack or abduction and the horrible sight of the guy’s dead toes peeking in my arm rest every now and then. I wanted to jump out the window. As soon as we got to our hotel in Jogjakarta, the first thing I did was to look for the cheapest flight out to Bali. There is no way I was gonna go through that ordeal again that soon.
So really what’s the moral of my story?
If you can afford it, take a flight going to Jogjakarta from Bali. It will take only an hour to fly there. If you’re pressed for cash and can’t afford the flight, Please book your ticket in advance and do not get your ticket on a limb! especially during Ramadan as the prices hike up at this time. Make sure that you book a luxury bus going there, it will cost you a little more but it will save you from a whole lot of horror. And oh for those of you who are riding an overnight bus around Asia for the first time, DO NOT settle for seats at the back of the bus, unless you want to smell the pee of all the passengers who goes in and out of the moving tin’s toilet.
Next Post: A Glimpse of Nirvana, Borobudur Temple